Close

Wonderwall

Capsule reviews of `Margin Call,' `Johnny English'

The Associated Press, Wednesday, October 19, 2011, 11:17am (PDT)

"Johnny English Reborn" — You probably weren't clamoring for a sequel to the 2003 British spy parody "Johnny English," which was far more successful overseas than it was in the United States. Still, here it is, again starring Rowan Atkinson. As the secret agent of the title, Johnny thinks he's as suave and resourceful as James Bond. Mostly, though, he bumbles his way from one situation to the next with the help of all the obligatory weapons and gadgets. Johnny is back at the agency, MI7, after a few years away with a bit of a stigma attached to him. Seems he massively messed up an assignment in Mozambique, and his new boss, Pegasus (Gillian Anderson), lets him know she won't tolerate those kinds of mistakes from him again. For his next job, Johnny must find out who is behind a plot to assassinate the Chinese premier. And even though he's been training in the remote mountains of Tibet all this time (in an admittedly amusing montage), Johnny still isn't quite up for the challenge. Director Oliver Parker's film relies on a lot of the same tired, repetitive spy spoofs as the "Austin Powers" movies, much of the same false confidence in the face of absurd danger. That any of this works, ever, is a testament to Atkinson's skills as a comedian. You can sense him slumming and straining but he's so gifted physically, he makes some pretty idiotic material more enjoyable than it should be. Rosamund Pike and Dominic West co-star. PG for mild action violence, rude humor, some language and brief sensuality. 101 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

———

"Margin Call" — Several movies have tried to get their arms around the unwieldy topic of the 2008 economic collapse. This latest one recreates the earliest moments of the crisis with the tight time frame and claustrophobic setting of a play — a David Mamet play, to be specific. First-time writer-director J.C. Chandor depicts this devastating moment of volatility with a patter that's reminiscent of Mamet: profane and masculine, with rhythmic repetition of certain key phrases. It may seem a little stagey and actorly, but it's a fitting approach given the swagger of the characters in this cruel and competitive world, as well as the pressure they feel once they realize how much trouble they, and the rest of the world, are in. "Margin Call" takes place over a 24-hour period, beginning with layoffs at a major Wall Street financial firm. Among the casualties is risk analyst Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), who passes along to one of his underlings, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), some figures he was studying on his way out the door. His warning: "Be careful." Peter digs a little deeper and his realization that Eric was onto something — that the firm is in way over its head and is about to find out its assets are essentially worthless — spreads across his face with a quiet horror. It's a reaction we'll see again and again as this discovery gets kicked up the chain of command. The excellent ensemble cast includes Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany and Demi Moore. R for language. 107 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

———

"Martha Marcy May Marlene" — A tongue twister of a title that makes chilling sense as the film unfolds. In quiet, intimate ways, it is one of the most startling, haunting films you'll see all year. Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of twin multimedia moguls Mary-Kate and Ashley, stars in the title role. She's a reserved woman in her 20s who is skittishly fleeing a hippieish cult in upstate New York at the film's start. She calls her older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), from whom she's been estranged for a couple of years, for help. At this point, she's known by her real name of Martha. Writer-director Sean Durkin seamlessly cuts back and forth in time. In the present, Martha is awkwardly trying to assimilate to normal life with Lucy and her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), at their peaceful Connecticut lake house. But memories increasingly plague Martha of her time at the idyllic but slightly creepy farm ruled by the calmly charismatic Patrick (John Hawkes). He gave Martha a new name, Marcy May, initiated her through the same ritual all the women there endured and insisted she was his favorite when he sensed her apprehension. Hawkes is frightening without ever raising his voice; he simply radiates menace. And Durkin builds gripping tension through steady camerawork and long takes, naturalistic lighting and ambient noise. He grabs you in a way you may not even actively perceive; rather, he creates a cumulative sensation that sneaks up on you subconsciously. Far and away one of the year's best. R for disturbing violent and sexual content, nudity and language. 101 minutes. Four stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Show Comments
When using Facebook Connect your image and name may display on Wonderwall. All Privacy Settings are controlled by Facebook
Like us on Facebook?
UP NEXT
Terrible Trends
We are updating our Terms of Use. Learn More
aa